Davutoğlu’s Mali discomfort

Davutoğlu’s Mali discomfort

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu does not appear too happy over France’s intervention in Mali. It is not clear if this has anything to do with the visit Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid to neighboring Niger recently. During that visit Erdoğan blasted the country’s former colonial ruler without naming names. That ruler was, of course, France, which was also the former colonial master of Mali.

Meanwhile it did not take long for the French intervention to be painted in a negative light in Turkey. Many are maintaining now – as usual without bothering with all the facts – that what we have here is neo-colonial western attempt aimed at stealing the natural resources of an African country again.

No one is naïve enough to think, of course, that France is not considering its interests here and that its keenness in carrying out this intervention has nothing to do with the uranium reserves it relies on in Niger. The fear that the crisis in Mali, where France also had interests, might spread to Niger is obviously a motivating factor for Paris.

But there is more to it than that, starting with Resolution 2085 adopted by the Security Council in December 2012, which proposes assistance to the Malian military aimed at reducing the threat from radical Islamists and Tuareg separatists in the North of the country. As an aside here it must be mentioned that a statement from the Turkish foreign ministry said that Turkey also supports this resolution.

Secondly the French intervention was a response to an urgent request by the Malian government, as forces from the north started moving toward the capital city of Bamako. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was among the fist to express satisfaction over the quick response to this call.

Thirdly, not only is the African Union and The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) supportive of the French intervention, but Nigeria has sent troops to that country to assist the French military. Finally France has the support of not just of Russia, but also of Mali’s neighbor Algeria, which opened its airspace to France’s fighter jets.

This picture does not sit well with Turks who are always keen to cultivate their prejudices, even in the face of facts. It seems it may not sit well with Davutoğlu too, despite Ankara’s support for Resolution 2085.

Answering questions during a conference organized by Anatolian news agency last week, he said that no country should intervene in Mali on its own or with another country, adding that all actions must be taken under the UN’s umbrella. He also underlined that Mali’s territorial integrity was of the utmost importance.

These were odd remarks, given that there is not only a Security Council Resolution, but also that France has support from a significant portion of the international community. As to the matter about Mali’s territorial integrity, that, after all, is a key reason for the current intervention.

One can only guess, therefore, as to what is upsetting Davutoğlu, and undoubtedly Prime Minister Erdoğan also, here. It could be that they are angry that the Security Council, which has not acted on Syria, should have decided to act on Mali so swiftly. Erdoğan can be expected to moralize over this in the coming days.

Erdoğan and Davutoğlu could also be unhappy over France’s scoring positive points among its former colonies at a time when Ankara is expending great efforts on is own “Africa opening.” The fact that African countries should be cooperating with their former colonizers does not fit the overall paradigm Ankara has been cultivating vis-à-vis this continent.

It is, in fact, hard to see, despite much bombast from the government, which international developments over these past few years have been in tune with this over ambitious paradigm that has Turkey at the center of just about everything.

Clearly the events in Mali also caught Ankara unaware, leaving it unable to quickly formulate a coherent policy in tune with its Western allies and new friends in Africa.